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MORGAN SILVER DOLLARS (1878-1921)

Morgan Silver Dollar

George T. Morgan designed the Morgan Silver Dollar, which was issued every year from 1878 to 1904 and then again in 1921. Hundreds of millions of Morgan Silver Dollars were saved in bags of 1,000 each in bank vaults because the federal government created artificial demand for them to satisfy the Western silver interests. Some were melted in the 1918, but large quantities remained in bank vaults and were later bought by investors and collectors. Because many millions of Morgan Silver Dollars exist today in the hands of the public, the Morgan Silver Dollar has become the most widely collected coin of its era.

In the late 1870’s a group of silver mine owners convinced Senator William Allison (Republican from Iowa) and Representative Richard Bland (Democrat from Missouri) to support a proposal for a new silver dollar. After much negotiation and intense lobbying by the silver industry, Bland and Allison introduced a bill to resume silver coinage, which had been stopped earlier. Despite the veto of President Rutherford B. Hayes, the Bland-Allison Act became law in February, 1878. It required that the Treasury buy a minimum of two million dollars a month of domestic silver to be coined into dollars. It also gave the silver dollar legal tender status. These became the dollars designed by George T. Morgan. The act attempted to keep silver at artificially high levels. Large quantities of Morgan Dollars were minted, but they did not circulate well and were kept in Treasury storage vaults, which accounts for their availability today in mint state grades. In 1904 production was halted because the supply of bullion was depleted. In 1918 the Pittman Act provided for the return of the Morgan dollar. It made its final appearance in 1921.

When he applied to the Mint for the position of Assistant Engraver, Morgan wrote explaining his previous experiences: “I am familiar with the engraving of coin dies, having for several years, assisted Messrs. J.S. & A.B. Wyon. I think I may say that I have a good knowledge of Design & Modeling. I served an apprenticeship to the Die Sinking at Birmingham. From Birmingham School of Art I successfully competed for a Scholarship at South Kensington… during my Studentship I obtained Medals & Prizes for Models of Heads from Life, Figures from Life & Antique Heads from Photographs and Flowers from nature. I believe it is not usual for an Engraver to have a practical knowledge of Bronzing. Fortunately I have knowledge of this art and could in a short time so instruct an apt scholar that he would be able to successfully bronze a medal.” Morgan’s design for the dollar shows a close head of Liberty in profile facing left. She wears a headband inscribed LIBERTY. In her hair are cotton, corn, wheat, and tobacco. She wears a modified Phrygian cap and is surrounded with the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM, thirteen stars (seven left and six right), and the date. The reverse shows an eagle with wings raised looking left. In its talons are arrows and olive branch, symbols of preparedness and peace. A wreath is below and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST is above. Except for the eagle’s wing tips, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and ONE DOLLAR circumscribe the design. The mintmark, if present, is below the wreath and above the denomination.

The only complaint with George T. Morgan’s design for the new dollar was that Liberty was too heavy. For his model, Morgan used Anna Williams, a school teacher from Philadelphia. Charles Barber also submitted a design. His design showed Liberty as also being too heavy, but she was also dumpy looking and had a fat neck. Morgan’s reverse showed an eagle that looked unnatural. Barber’s seemed more real. In any case, it was Morgan’s designs that were selected for the dollar. It is an irony that the first Morgan dollar was presented to Rutherford B. Hayes, the president who had vetoed the authorizing act.

When first discovered, gold and silver found in Nevada had to be shipped over the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the branch mint in San Francisco. This trip was dangerous and expensive. The Nevada mine owners asked Congress to establish a branch of the mint in their state, and legislation was enacted in 1863. Carson City was chosen as the location for the mint facility because it was near some of the major mining sites.

The majority of Morgan Dollar coins can be found in mint state because they were saved in vaults that contained $1,000 bags. However, there are a number of rarities in the series. The rarest is the 1895 Proof only issue. Only 880 were struck and since it is a Proof only issue, all date collectors must acquire one to have a complete set. Others include the 1893-S, mintage 100,000; the 1889-CC, mintage 350,000; the 1893-CC, mintage 677,000; and the 1894, mintage 110,000. While these coins are rare because of low mintages, there are many that are condition rarities and are scarce or rare in higher mint state grades. Included in this list and valued at over $100,000 in MS65 are the 1884-S, mintage 3,200,000; 1886-O, mintage 10,710,000; 1892-S, mintage 1,200,000; 1893-O, mintage, 300,000; 1895-O, mintage 450,000; 1896-O, mintage 4,900,000; and 1901, mintage 6,962,000. In addition over forty Morgan Dollar varieties, known as VAM’s for Leroy Van Allen and A. George Mallis, authors of the authoritative text on die varieties, are listed in the “Red Book.” Proof-like and Deep Mirror Proof-like Morgan Dollars are also valued by collectors. A Proof-like piece has a satiny luster with contrast and a Deep Proof-like or Deep Mirror Proof-like has a mirror-like surface. The Mint occasionally deliberately made proof-like coins as presentation pieces from brilliantly polished dies. However, sometimes proof-like coins were made merely as a result of being among the first struck by new dies. Rarities valued at over $100,000 in MS65 DMPL condition are the 1883-S, 1889-CC, 1892-S, 1893-CC, 1893-O, 1893-S, and 1895-O.

As the “King of the Morgan Dollars,” the 1895 Proof Morgan silver dollar is the key coin in the series. With an original mintage of 880, it is, of course, rare in all conditions. It is estimated that only about 700 or so exist today. Since the Morgan dollar series is collected by hundreds of thousands of people, this is the coin that every collector must have to complete a full set. Although the 1895 Proof Morgan is no rarer than other proof silver dollars in the series, it is always under the most intense demand from date collectors. Since the 1895 is so difficult to obtain, some collectors limit their collections to business strikes only so they can complete their sets.

Interestingly enough, the Mint actually reported a coinage of 12,000 business strikes for this date. However, none have been found to date. Researchers theorize that the 12,000 coins were merely a ledger entry at the end of the 1894-95 fiscal year that ended in June 1895. Maybe in June of 1895, business strikes of the previous year were delivered. Another theory is that the 12,000 existed and were melted under the terms of the Pittman Act of 1918.

Because the 1895 is so rare, authentication is mandatory. Many so called 1895 dollars are alterations of the 1895-O or the 1895-S that have had the mintmark removed. Also 1885 Philadelphia’s have been altered by changing the second 8 to a 9. (All USRCI coins are authenticated by one of the major grading services.)

The 1893-S Morgan Silver Dollar is the business strike key to the series of its low mintage. Also, as a result of the Pittman Act of 1918, it was heavily melted. In addition there was a lack of numismatic care because in the early days, collectors tended to disregard mintmarks and collected coins by date.

Specifications:
Weight: 26.73 grams
Composition: 90% silver, 10% copper
Diameter: 38.1 millimeters
Edge: reeded

DATE NOTES
1878 Morgan Dollar Major varieties include the 8 Tail Feathers reverse, 7 Tail Feathers reverse, 7/8 Tail Feathers reverse and Reverse of 1879. Among Proofs, the 1878 7 Tail Feathers, Reverse of 1879 is the rarest.
1878-CC Morgan Dollar One million or more melted. Usually found very well struck. DMPL scarce.
1878-S Morgan Dollar Several million melted. Usually found well struck.
1879 Morgan Dollar Millions melted. Approx. Usually well struck, some with flat eagle’s breast.
1879-CC Morgan Dollar Rarest of the early CC Morgan issues. Found with Clear and Capped (rusted) mintmarks. Large CC over small CC and perfect CC.
1879-O Morgan Dollar Many Prooflike coins exist. 5 proofs have been certified. Most struck average to above average.
1879-S Morgan Dollar Usually well struck in Mint State.
1880 Morgan Dollar Usually well struck.
1880-CC Morgan Dollar Striking varies from average to sharp. Look for 1880/79-CC.
1880-O Morgan Dollar Common date in lower grades. Rare in higher Mint State grades. Striking varies from average to sharp.
1880-S Morgan Dollar Second most available Morgan dollar of the early era.
1881 Morgan Dollar Business strikes common in lower Mint State grades. PF65 pop. 40.
1881-CC Morgan Dollar Almost always seen with sharp strike.
1881-O Morgan Dollar Common in lower Mint State grades.
1881-S Morgan Dollar Most available Morgan dollar of the early era.
1882 Morgan Dollar Business strikes are common in circulated and low Mint State grades. PF65 pop. 74.
1882-CC Morgan Dollar Most business strikes are well struck. 2 SP have been certified.
1882-O Morgan Dollar Most are lightly struck. Look for the rare O/S variety. MS65 pop. 8.
1882-S Morgan Dollar Plentiful even in higher Mint State grades.
1883 Morgan Dollar Available in higher Mint State grades. PF 65 pop. 73.
1883-CC Morgan Dollar Available in higher Mint State grades.
1 PFCA has been certified.
1883-O Morgan Dollar Often struck with weak centers. Common in Mint State. 2 proofs have been certified.
1883-S Morgan Dollar Almost always well struck. Available in lower Mint State grades. Rare in high Mint State grades.
1884 Morgan Dollar Rare in higher Mint State grades. Look for engraver’s initial M with large dot on ribbon. PF 65 pop. 49.
1884-CC Morgan Dollar Usually sharply struck. Available in higher Mint State grades. 2 PFCA have been certified.
1884-O Morgan Dollar Striking varies from sharp to flat. Common in Mint State grades. 1 SP has been certified.
1884-S Morgan Dollar Available in Uncirculated grades. Rare in Mint State. Almost unknown in higher Mint State grades.
1885 Morgan Dollar Common date, available in higher Mint State grades. Above average strike.
1885-CC Morgan Dollar Mint closed in Nov. Mint State grades available.
1885-O Morgan Dollar Usually struck with weak centers. Common in Mint State.
1885-S Morgan Dollar Usually struck with weak reverse center. Scarce in higher Mint State grades.
1886 Morgan Dollar Common in Mint State.
1886-O Morgan Dollar Poorly struck. Available in lower Mint State grades. Extremely rare in higher Mint State grades.
1886-S Morgan Dollar Well struck. Rare in higher Mint State grades.
1887 Morgan Dollar Highest mintage of early era. Common in higher Mint State grades. Look for 1887/6. PF 65 pop. 67.
1887-O Morgan Dollar Common in low Mint State grades, rare in high Mint State grades. Poorly struck. Look for the rare 1887/6-O overdate. MS65 pop. 88. 1 SP has been certified.
1887-S Morgan Dollar Weak centers. Available in lower Mint States. Rare above MS65.
1888 Morgan Dollar Striking varies from sharp to weak. Common in higher Mint State grades. PF 65 pop. 33
1888-O Morgan Dollar Look for “Hot Lips” variety. Flat strike. Common in Mint State. Rare above MS65.
1888-S Morgan Dollar Striking varies from flat to sharp. Available in Mint State grades. Rare above MS65.
1889 Morgan Dollar Usually struck with flat centers. Available in all grades. Scarce above MS65.
1889-CC Morgan Dollar Coinage began in October. Rare, key date issue. MS65 pop. 6. Rare in Mint State grades. Usually well struck.
1889-O Morgan Dollar Weakly struck. Rare in higher Mint State grades.
1889-S Morgan Dollar Usually well struck. Rare above MS65.
1890 Morgan Dollar Usually poorly struck. Common in low Mint State grades. Extremely rare above MS65.
1890-CC Morgan Dollar Usually well struck. Extremely rare above MS 65.
1890-O Morgan Dollar Usually flat strikes. Available in lower Mint State grades. Very rare above MS65.
1890-S Morgan Dollar Most are well struck. Rare above MS65.
1891 Morgan Dollar Usually poorly struck. Common in lower Mint State grades. Exceedingly rare above MS65.
1891-CC Morgan Dollar Usually well struck. Very rare above MS65.
1891-O Morgan Dollar Very poorly struck. Exceeding rare above MS65.
1891-S Morgan Dollar Usually well struck. Rare above MS65.
1892 Morgan Dollar Striking varies from flat to sharp. PF 65 pop. 71. Exceedingly rare above MS65.
1892-CC Morgan Dollar Most have sharp strikes. Rare above MS65.
1892-O Morgan Dollar Weakly struck. Available in lower Mint State grades. Very rare above MS65.
1892-S Morgan Dollar Usually well struck. Common in lower grades. Rare in Mint State grades.
1893 Morgan Dollar Strikes usually above average. Exceedingly rare above MS65.
1893-CC Morgan Dollar Last CC dollar. Usually poorly struck. MS65 pop. 16. Very rare in higher Mint State grades. 9 proofs have been certified.
1893-O Morgan Dollar Lowest mintage for all O-mint Morgans. Usually poorly struck. MS65 pop. 8. Very rare above MS64.
1893-S Morgan Dollar Lowest business strike mintage .Rare in all grades, especially Mint State. Usually sharply struck.
1894 Morgan Dollar Not as rare as the mintage suggests, but still very popular because it "looks" rare. Strike varies from average to poor.
1894-O Morgan Dollar Poorly struck. Rare in grades above MS64.
1894-S Morgan Dollar Usually with bold strike. Rare in higher Mint State grades.
1895 Morgan Dollar “The King of the Morgan Dollars.” None of the 12,000 circulation strikes has ever been seen. Experts believe they were all melted down.
1895-O Morgan Dollar Usually poorly struck. Rare in all Mint State grades. 3 proofs and 2 SP have been certified.
1895-S Morgan Dollar Sharply struck. Rare above MS64.
1896 Morgan Dollar Usually with strong strikes. Common is all grades. PF 65 pop. 61.
1896-O Morgan Dollar Common in uncirculated grades. Extremely rare above MS63. 2 SP have been certified.
1896-S Morgan Dollar Easily available in circulated grades. Rare above MS64.
1897 Morgan Dollar Usually boldly struck. Common date in all grades. PF 65 pop. 41.
1897-O Morgan Dollar Usually poorly struck. Exceedingly rare above MS64.
1897-S Morgan Dollar Usually well struck. Common date in all grades.
1898 Morgan Dollar Usually well struck. Common date in all grades. PF 65 pop. 46.
1898-O Morgan Dollar Striking quality varies. Common in Mint State grades.
1898-S Morgan Dollar Striking quality varies. Rare above MS65.
1899 Morgan Dollar Low mintage date. MS65 pop. 1,635. Striking quality varies. Rare above MS65.
1899-O Morgan Dollar Striking quality varies. Common in Mint State.
1899-S Morgan Dollar Usually sharply struck. Rare in higher Mint State grades.
1900 Morgan Dollar New reverse hub. Striking quality varies. Available in Mint State grades.
1900-O Morgan Dollar Striking quality varies. Common in Mint State. Look for the1900-O/CC.
1900-S Morgan Dollar Striking quality varies. Scarce above MS65.
1901 Morgan Dollar Third rarest Mint State Philadelphia issue.MS65 pop. 6. Usually weakly struck. Especially rare above MS63.
1901-O Morgan Dollar Largest Morgan dollar mintage from New Orleans. Striking quality varies. Common in Mint State.
1901-S Morgan Dollar Striking quality varies. Rare above MS65.
1902 Morgan Dollar Striking quality varies. Common in Mint State grades. PF 65 pop. 63.
1902-O Morgan Dollar Usually poorly struck. Common in Mint State grades.
1902-S Morgan Dollar Striking quality varies. Scarce above MS64.
1903 Morgan Dollar Usually well struck. Common in Mint State. PF 65 pop. 69.
1903-O Morgan Dollar Striking quality varies. Common in Mint State.
1903-S Morgan Dollar Usually well struck. Scarce above MS64.
1904 Morgan Dollar Striking quality varies. Scarce above MS64. PF 65 pop. 72.
1904-O Morgan Dollar Last Morgan dollar at New Orleans Mint. Striking quality varies. Common in Mint State.
1904-S Morgan Dollar Striking quality varies. Usually average. Scarce above MS64.
1921 Morgan Dollar Most common Morgan dollar. Common in Mint State. Proofs were made on numismatist Farran Zerbe's behalf, followed by more made for Henry Chapman.
1921-D Morgan Dollar The only Denver Mint coin in the Morgan series. Usually poorly struck. Common in Mint State.
1921-S Morgan Dollar
Scarce above MS65. Very poorly struck. Supposedly, Proofs were made on Farran Zerbe's behalf in 1921.
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